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Featherston forum eye faster progress

The Featherston Community Board [FCB] started the year with a high-energy discussion at an open forum on Wednesday on how to fast-track the town’s development.

Residents brought a range of ideas to the event, which represented the board beginning to make good on election promises for more community engagement.

Suggestions included painting the buildings along the main road, encouraging new eateries to open, developing the old courthouse into an art gallery and cafe, beautifying streets with edible plantings, and promoting new businesses.

Local resident Mark Futter said while the town faces challenges to growth, they are surmountable.

He said cohesion across the region is important, as is recognising the limitations of relying only on formal high-level strategy processes.

He also noted the desired development will not be achieved by relying on public funds, especially in a region like Wairarapa with a small rating base.

“It’s got to start at the lowest level,” Futter said.

“Pick the projects that are visible, the ones that make a difference, and the ones that people see.

“Economic development is not hard, but it requires a concentrated framework.”

Futter advised the FCB to keep ideas simple: “It doesn’t need to cost much; it just starts with very good ideas.”

Facilities like ANZAC Hall already give the town an edge, he said.

South Wairarapa District Councillor Colin Olds agreed.

“Community-led and community-driven projects, with support from elected bodies, are always the ones that have the best outcome.”

South Wairarapa Deputy Mayor Melissa Sadler-Futter referred to the wealth of talent in the district.

“The first key is finding that real networking connection in this community. We had two submissions tonight, but I know for a fact there are probably 20 or 30 other incredible ideas out there that people are talking about and thinking about.”

Sadler-Futter said the challenge is to harness those ideas and encourage good communication and asked how FCB could help push those ideas forward.

The deputy mayor has previously acknowledged the town’s challenges, including ageing and neglected infrastructure and a growing population. She campaigned for election to the council to ensure any changes benefit locals.

“We cannot escape the need for investment in Featherston,” she said at the time.

“The challenge ahead is to achieve this investment in a creative, cost-effective way that does not financially cripple our ratepayers now or in the future.”

FCB chair Tui Rutherford said a key consideration is leaving a legacy for the future.

“What should the long-term aspirations for this community be? What do we want things to look like for our children and our children’s children?” he asked.

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